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Where did the "picking flowers" euphemism for "answering the call of nature" come from? Although, saying it like that makes it sound a bit obvious.

I first saw it in SCP-6385:

pick flowers (a colloquial idol term for urination or defecation)

And then checking Google, the only easy source I can find is Urban Dictionary 2020. Is it just something that came up in the last few years? Was it actually imported from Japan? I assume that's just SCP Worldbuilding, and not really what happened.

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    In the days several decades ago when more British went for simple country walks and wild flowers were more abundant, often in the spring or summer, I heard this used as a simple euphemism, based on the idea that the person might reasonably go to pick a few wild flowers for a minute or two. Whether they did so or not was immaterial: it provided a plausible momentary excuse to leave the group to go (usually) to urinate.
    – Anton
    Jun 3, 2022 at 9:09
  • It comes from the same place as "see a man about a dog" comes from. Jun 3, 2022 at 14:09
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    "See a man about a dog" is considerably more mysterious than picking flowers.
    – Stuart F
    Mar 21 at 9:17

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It sure looks Japanese to me, due to the wealth of Japanese sources that mention it. Possibly it could be from another Asian language, since there are some others that use it. In any case, it's certainly a euphemism.

It's not an expression I (as a native speaker of American English) had heard before now. I suspect that most native English speakers are the same.

I started my search on Twitter. The earliest result I found for "pick flowers" (or similar phrasings) in this sense in English was 2013, from a guy in Malaysia who has a username with Japanese characters. I found another Tweet from 2021 mentioning it as being "a camp thing" (there's no connection I see to Japan here, but there's nothing to prove otherwise either). Other than these results, I had trouble finding other examples in English, though I did find some pretty recent ones that mention it.

After finding the Japanese equivalent in one of the tweets, I switched to searching for Japanese hits. There are a lot of them that don't have enough context to evaluate, but there are several tweets that are clear matches, such as this 2012 Tweet. And that's just a search of pre-2015 Tweets.

On the wider internet, here's the best English explanation I found, from an excerpt about using the bathroom:

*お花摘みに行く* (ohana tsumi ni iku - I will go picking flowers): This is an expression for women.

*雉撃ちに行く* (kiji uchi ni iku - I will go pheasant hunting): This is an expression for men.

Originally, it seems that these expression was used to imply urinating/defecating on climbing.

This is because the posture of urinating/defecating in the grass is similar to the posture of flower picking or pheasant hunting.

Kano.ac

Older sources are easy to find. Shakai shugi (1986) has this text:

お花摘みやキジ射ちのためである。("It is for picking flowers and shooting pheasants.")

There really are a lot of Japanese sources out there that use the expression. However, I also found some mentions of it in other languages. Specifically, this manga page (which mentions flower picking in the top right, though I have no idea what's happening) has these comments:

  • By Disoriented:

    Holy... My mind is blown. "Picking flowers" is a euphemism used in Thai as well, for the same purposes, no less. (Then again, I'm easily caught up by what these things usually implicate. Roots of language, travelling over Asia beginning with Hinduism 2,500BC, etc.)

  • By ForteGVN:

    Picking Flowers = Hái Hoa
    also an idiom in Vietnam for peeing.

  • By Legal Peace (responding to ForteGVN):

    It's also for number 2 actually, not peeing

All of this is what I personally found, using only machine translation. You would get more detailed research on the Japanese/Vietnamese/Thai side from someone who can read those languages and has experience researching them.

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The first thing that came to my mind is that:

Imagine when ladies need to urinate while at an outdoor and rural location with little to no hope of any available WC/washroom/bathroom/toilet for an extensively long time/distance, she'd reluctantly have to resolve in taking care of it outdoor.

When ladies urinate, they take either a squatting or a sitting(if possible) position. Also, since she has to reluctantly do something embarrassing while being at an outdoor location, it'd be ideal if they could find a location where there are perhaps things, trees or plants to shield them from being seen, such as a field of flowers. This happens to both females and males, it's in human nature to instinctively want to hide our embarrassments.

Now, imagine looking at this from a far distance, it'd seem like a lady is down "picking flowers" in the middle of a field of flowers, wouldn't it? (^ω^)

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I read here it’s maybe from Asia, but in Dutch we have an saying for peeing that goes like “Ik ga (even) de plantjes water geven”.

Which literately translates to “I’m going to water the plants”.

And this is not, as stated on urban dictionary a “pretty feminine thing to say” in the Netherlands. I would actually say it’s more of an guy thing…

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